A California jury awarded $2.055 billion to a couple who sued Monsanto alleging its Roundup weed killer caused them to develop an aggressive form of cancer after decades of treating their properties with the glyphosate-based herbicide.
Like thousands of other people seeking health-related damages from Monsanto, plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod suffer from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL), a form of cancer affecting the body’s lymph nodes, blood cells, and immune system. During the five-week trial, their lawyer told the jury that had the Pilliods known Roundup could cause cancer, they would have “never touched” it.
The Pilliod case was the third of about 13,400 similar cases against Monsanto to go to trial. The momentum was set in the first two trials, which both ended with massive judgments against the Roundup manufacturer, which became part of the Bayer conglomerate last year.
Law360 reported that after nearly two days of deliberating, five women and seven men found that it’s more likely than not that Roundup was a significant contributing factor in causing plaintiffs Alva and Alberta Pilliod’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The jury awarded the couple $55 million in non-economic and economic damages and hit the agrochemical giant with $1 billion in punitive damages for each of the plaintiffs.
The first Monsanto Roundup trial ended Aug. 19, 2018, with a $289.2 million jury verdict for plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson. The judge later upheld the jury’s verdict but reduced the punitive damages award, bringing the total award to $78.5 million. The judge in that case ultimately pared down the award to $78 million.
The second case resulted in a March 28 jury verdict against Monsanto for $80 million, including $75 million in punitive damages.
Building on that momentum, the Pilliods’ lawyer asked the jury for an award of $1 billion on top of $55 million in economic and noneconomic damages.
He bolstered the argument for hefty awards by arguing Roundup was “born in fraud,” because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved the herbicide in 1974 based on safety studies that were later found to be fraudulent.
Instead of pulling Roundup from the market then, Monsanto’s internal documents show the EPA worked with the company’s executives to keep Roundup alive, including engaging in efforts to stymie a 2015 toxicology review conducted by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), a unit of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The Pilliods’ lawyer described decades of alleged efforts Monsanto executives took to cover up and suppress scientific research that tied Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate to cancer. Those efforts allegedly included ghostwriting bogus pro-Roundup academic papers and manipulating scientific data.
All of this “bad science” allegedly found its way into other scientific literature. The Pilliods argued the EPA continues to cite the corrupted studies in its own findings because, according to Law 360, “the government has been captured by the industry.”
Monsanto also continued to sell Roundup with polyethoxylated tallow amine (POEA), a surfactant that multiplies glyphosate’s toxicity and is banned by the EU. According to Law 360, Monsanto at the same time “refused to conduct cancer tests on its Roundup formula and ignored studies showing Roundup is easily absorbed through the skin, stored and then transported to the bones, where lymphoma develops.”